Jia Zhangke’s graceful 2006 film Still Life tells a diptych story about two characters from Shanxi province who return to the town of Fengjie in search of past relationships. The film follows Han Sanming (played by Zhangke’s cousin of the same name), a coal miner who returns to the town in search of his ex-wife and daughter, and Shen Hong (Zhao Tao), a nurse who arrives in search of her absent husband. In their separate stories, the two leads discover a town precariously balanced on the edge of the past and the future, as the building of the Three Gorges Dam sets in motion the upcoming flooding and deconstruction of the area. Zhangke and frequent cinematographic collaborator Yu Lik-wai’s crisp visualization of the story ranges from lingering realism, the camera dwelling in the various work and home activities of the town’s residents, to surrealist intrusions of askew behavior and visual elements, like a UFO flying across the horizon, that highlight the uncertain and chaotic nature of the landscape. As our main characters attempt to maintain a grip on their pasts, the present they encounter is being demolished before their eyes, as the world around them lurches forward in unstable shifts towards the inevitable future.